The 2016 champs did not add much in the way of developments within winter, but they are playing disrespected underdog card to perfection as spring training opens.
The Cubs did not appear for their first exercise day of this spring Wednesday using a glistening new free agent starting pitcher with any new big-ticket relievers.
But if you feel the manager is the biggest thing that’s new for the team this spring, he will tell you that the biggest addition is that the processor onto the team’s collective shoulder.
“I believe they have enjoyed individuals type of counting them having a tiny bit of their’what-if’ vibe,” manager David Ross said. “I believe that they’re out to prove something in what I see in their eyes and their opinions.”
Counting out them? The Cubs got bounced from the wild-card game in 2018, subsequently missed the playoffs through an 84-win 2019 season, and also their sole major-league acquisitions because last year were one-year fliers on bounce-back candidates Steven Souza Jr. and Jeremy Jeffress.
No wonder nobody out of Chicago or outside a half-mile radius around Sloan Park in Arizona appears to think these men are legitimate threats to win the National League Central.
“We have a chip on the shoulder,” said left fielder Kyle Schwarber, that strongly objected to this proposal this center of Cubs peaked long ago. “I understand we all expect a whole lot more of us than what’s happened the last couple years. … I do not think that it’s a secret we have got to do things better.
“You look at it on paper, you have got a lot of guys in here that are studs, by the [starting pitching] staff into the place players into the bullpen, the coaching staff, front office, the owners, everything like that.”
If Schwarber believes it is only about refocusing and allowing the talent take over using a new season of renewed function, veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo cautions against assuming anything.
“I believe we are a certain group. We are also a extremely humbled group at the moment,” said Rizzo who admits this team has a lot to prove after disappointing endings to the last two seasons — that, in large part, price the last manager his job.
“Processor on the shoulder? I really don’t see why we deserve a chip on the shoulder,” Rizzo said. “We did not make the playoffs [last] year. We have got to go out and earn it. I believe that it’s on us to be the best team this year. We have got the talent.”
That’s another motif running throughout the clubhouse, that the whole core returned even though a winter of trade rumors involving several players — a heart that won a World Series in the majority of cases as rookies and second-year players.
“If you look around, our team’s really talented,” said Tyler Chatwood, that may have a major say in how well the team plays this year when he retakes the fifth spot in the rotation as planned and performs nicely. “Nobody liked the last year finished — the last two years, honestly. I believe everybody’s starving and ready to begin and prove everybody wrong.”